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Kids Can Learn to Save Lives During EMS Week

In an emergency, I'm glad to be in Boston.

After our pediatrician's receptionist says we'll wait weeks for an appointment, when the day arrives and I've drilled down five floors underground to find a parking spot, then more time passes in – yes, the WAITING room – it can be hard to remember that, if you're going to be seriously ill or have an accident, Boston is the place to be.

Even in our city, home to top teaching hospitals, medical researchers, and specialists, access to primary care can be a challenge. But in an emergency, Bostonians have it very good. 

Take proximity, for instance: If you live in Beacon Hill and are ambulatory, you could probably walk to Mass General faster than a screaming ambulance could get you there.  In the Parkway you've got several options like Faulkner Hospital, or medical offices like the  that could quickly help you. And even if you were in Charlestown and had to be at Children’s Hospital (in a non-emergency, let’s say), it’s still less than six miles away.

When my daughter had surgery at Children’s, our 2-year-old roommate at the hospital was separated from his three big brothers and sisters, hundreds of miles north in Maine. I was really grateful that my husband’s errands back to our apartment took mere minutes, not a tankful of gas.

Today is Emergency Medical Services for Children Day, part of EMS Week. Which means that in a few places around Boston, kids will have access to EMTs and a roving ambulance for some basic training on how to be comfortable around something that their parents hope never to need.

Boston EMS spokesperson Jennifer Mehigan said, “We don’t want their first interaction to be in an emergency.”

If your family has already reviewed basic first aid, how to call 911 (give as much info as possible and stay calm), and has talked about helmets and water safety for the summer, you might be ready to learn CPR.

At MBTA stations this week, you may hear Boston’s EMS chief promoting the new “hands-only” CPR, which deemphasizes mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Organizations like the  and American Red Cross hold classes. Next week, the updated CPR at-home teaching tool will be available, which incorporates the American Heart Association's new 2010 guidelines. “CPR Anytime” is about $35 through the AHA.

As Felicia Robinson - a mother, EMT, and director of Community Initiatives for Boston EMS says -  “knowing what to do in an emergency is empowering.” Most Americans still don’t know how to perform CPR, and kids as young as nine years old have been shown to learn it successfully, according to the AHA.  If administered immediately, it’s a technique that can double or even triple a victim’s chances for survival.

You can preview the kits here.

If you ever have to call 911, not only does it help that Boston is less than 50 square miles in size, but statistically there is one EMT or paramedic covering each mile during peak hours: as many as 24 ambulances are ready to go from 17 stations around the city, responding to 300 emergencies a day.

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